Saints and Soldiers

Saints and Soldiers is by far the most ambitious Mormon film to date, and the most different. Unlike most of the others, this does not take place in an explicitly LDS society. It is missing a lot of the lame inside humor that is all but unintelligible to non-members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints. In fact, many people watching Saints and Soldiers may have a hard time distinguishing it as a Mormon film, since it never explicitly states so. Instead, one can tell by the numerous tidbits about the life of its protagonist, Nathan "Deacon" Greer (Corbin Allred, Anywhere But Here, Diamonds). He lives in Arizona, went on a mission to Germany, abstains from cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol, he prays with a little book, and the first time he kissed his wife was at their wedding. Moreover, these army boyshave the cleanest mouths ever (i.e. no cussing) in a war film.

Deacon is point man for a group of four soldiers and one Brit, making their way through enemy territory after the Malmedy Massacre. The four Americans managed to escape the Germans, and are now on the run for their lives. The Americans are trying to make it back to friendly territory, while the Brit, Oberon Winley (Kirby Heybourne, The Best Two Years, The R.M.) needs to get some crucial information into Allied hands. Along with Deacon and Winley are Gordon Gunderson (Peter Asle Holden, Black Hole, Out of Step) Deacon's superior, Shirl Kendrick (Larry Bagby, God's Army, Black Friday), and medic Steven Gould (Alexander Polinsky, Perfect Fit, Pumpkinhead II).

The religious overtones come from the interaction between Gould and Deacon. Deacon's is wrestling with some emotional trauma suffered a short time ago. This is beginning to affect his judgment, which worries Gould, since Deacon is responsible for looking out for the men. Moreover, he spent his mission in Germany so he speaks fluent German, something that does not go over well with the mistrustful Gould. Deacon is led by his sense of right and wrong, and Gould has no understanding of what this is. Saints and Soldiers succeeds by not mentioning religion. This makes it accessible to all audiences, and allows screenwriters Geoffrey Panos and Matt Whitaker (Truth & Conviction) to show how Deacon's religion shapes him as a person. While some of the characterizations are a little shaky, they do succeed in incorporating religious overtones with a secular film.

But what is really impressive is the production value. Director Ryan Little (Out of Step, The Last Good War) stages some pretty decent looking battles (with a minimum of gratuitous violence of course), and overall everything looks more like a regular movie than some of the other Mormon films, where their low budgets really show. Allred and Gould do a decent job as soldiers, but the real standout is Heybourne, who was absolutely terrible in his other films. Again, a lot of the reason why is the lack of stupid humor. Some still creeps in, but for the most part, it is minimal. Little conveys the horror of war in a slightly new way, and although plot-wise, there is nothing new about the story of the stock characters, there is a little nice twist to make Saints and Soldiers different from many other war films.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated PG-13 for war violence.

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